A supplier code of conduct is used to ensure that suppliers are being compliant with social and environment rules and regulations. Preventing buyers from purchasing from unethical companies who do not have positive practices towards their employees or their environment. The supplier code of conduct usually enforces and upholds all relevant laws and social governance standards. Some typical issues covered by supplier code of conduct are human rights violations, corruption, bribery, pollution, unfair treatment of workers and discrimination. Buyers can then make responsible choices when choosing who to procure their goods and services from within their supply chain. At SheSupplies, we also want to emphasise the importance of a buyer code of conduct.

Despite the emphasis on supplier codes of conduct, there is very little pressure on businesses to have a buyer code of conduct. Responsible buying, by maintaining a code of conduct, can reduce potential risks in the supply chain. A buyer code of conduct is important to increase transparency throughout the supply chain, by setting out clear and agreed upon regulations. A code of conduct will support the due diligence process as it will require businesses to be more transparent and address and prevent potential human rights abuses in their supply chain. Open communication between buyer and supplier, and relevant stakeholders, will create a better relationship between all parties. Having a mutual code of conduct will also even out a potential power imbalance between buyer and supplier. Instead of putting all of the ownice of upholding responsible business practices on the supplier, it will ensure that the buyer must also be aware and prevent any potential human rights abuses or unethical behaviour. 

SheSupplies encourages and supports businesses to implement a two way code of conduct. A mutual responsibility between buyer and supplier to uphold ethical business practices. Using our digital resource platform, we have many helpful pieces of information on how to carry out ethical trade, relating to gender equality and other social issues. The Ethical Trade Initiative can also provide helpful tools, such as,  ‘A Guide to Buying Responsibly’. Some expectations set out for buyers are to refrain from negotiating a price that is below the cost of production, or changing suppliers despite them issuing a higher price to ensure decent wages and working conditions for employees. Placing orders responsibly with enough time to complete them safely without excessive working hours. Communicating clearly and accurately with suppliers and treating suppliers with respect and consideration. Ending relationships with suppliers that do not uphold their social or environmental reponsibilities. 

The concept of a buyer code of conduct is relatively novel, but some institutions and businesses have started implementing one. Zeeman is a Dutch chain store that sells general homeware, clothing and everyday use items. Zeeman has committed to a two way code of conduct to meet the Ethical Trading Initiative standards, who have certified this document. Whilst it outlines a supplier code of conduct, there are also articles about ethical business behaviour for Zeeman. Including anti bribery, interacting honourably within the supply chain, information privacy and observing all applicable laws and regulations. 

Having a buyer code of conduct will increase transparency, improve the working relationship between buyer and supplier, uphold human and environmental rights and allow the buyer to take responsibility for their action in the supply chain. 

Here you can find the ETI’s ‘A Guide to Buying Responsibly’ and more information on Zeeman: